Thirsty Planet, Plastic-Covered World

While traveling in Mexico this summer, my family took a wrong turn and saw, up close, a part of the countryside that few tourists notice: a massive mountain of trash the size of my high school building. We drove right through this enormous pile of trash on a dirt road that snaked like a canyon at the bottom of cliffs, formed mostly from single-use plastic water bottles. Looking up from the bottom of a mountain of plastic bottles, the sheer volume of plastic was staggering.

I instantly wanted to know more: is this the reality that many people live in?

Having grown up in a country with access to clean, potable tap water, my trip to Mexico in 2019 was my first experience in a place where the water was not drinkable. It made me realize the significant limitations of my personal experience. I had assumed that clean water was a right rather than a privilege. After traveling to Mexico, I started reading and researching about water infrastructure around the world and realized that my reality diverged from the reality of the majority of people on the planet.

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Billions of people lack access to clean water. It was not until I personally needed to worry about the source and cleanliness of my own drinking water that I started to gain a glimpse of life in a developing country, where clean water is not generally and freely available. Water is essential for life, and clean water is crucial for human development and prosperity.

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Clean water distributed through pipes and taps enables economy-boosting urbanization and avoids destructive pollution. These facts had always been there in the world, but only when I experienced a bit of them personally did I establish a better understanding of how limited my first-world experience has been.

The lesson I learned in Mexico from unclean tap water and a mountain of plastic simultaneously humbled and inspired me. I realized how much I do not know about the realities of and struggles for survival of most of the earth’s inhabitants and how much I have taken for granted in terms of access to the earth’s resources and the creation of garbage. This realization was a turning point in my thinking about myself, my world, and my future; I have started to think in terms of a shared world and a shared future. Many of my personal, day-to-day concerns are not of paramount importance. Instead of focusing primarily on my own short-term desires, I have begun thinking of how I can apply my efforts and talents to help solve problems that we, the inhabitants of this planet, are facing. Recognizing and internalizing the realities of pollution and clean water access has given me a broader sense of purpose in life. Plastic pollution and clean water access are global problems, but they have become personal to me. I have learned something critical to my future education: there is much that I know that I do not know, and there are even more unknowns that I do not yet realize that I do not know.

This is why I look forward to college. I want to increase the boundaries of my island of knowledge and grow the shoreline of my known unknowns. I hope to contribute to humanity’s solutions and add value to our world. My perspective-changing experience in Mexico helped me realize that the problems faced in the world are vast and difficult to fully comprehend, and every one of us needs to work toward global awareness to start solving them.

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Thirsty Planet, Plastic-Covered World. (2019, Nov 28). Retrieved from

Thirsty Planet, Plastic-Covered World

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